Independent Pursuits: Chess

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IVAN SOKOLOV increased his lead to a full point in Hastings on Tuesday with a win against Tony Miles: Miles had sacrificed his h pawn in the opening but then neglected the chance to go into an inferior but tenable endgame and came under a withering attack. Meanwhile Matthew Sadler drew with Sergei Shipov and Emms drew with me; but Ponomariov won as Black against Saltaev and 17-year-old Laurent Fressinet shocked Jim Plaskett with thunder out of an apparently clear sky.

With two rounds to go, the scores were: Sokolov 5.5/7, Shipov 4.5, Sadler and Ponomariov 4, Emms and myself 3.5, Fressinet 3, Miles and Plaskett 2.5 and Saltaev 2. In a standard Sicilian, Plaskett delayed castling until attacking the d3 bishop, so that White couldn't attack h7 starting with e5. When he got in ...e5xf4 Black appeared to have the advantage and the pawn sacrifice 22... d5 opened up the bishop's diagonal towards g2.

In the diagram, White has just taken aim at g7. Normally with three pawns in front of the king and plenty of defenders this should be no problem. So 27... Qb4? was quite natural until it got hit with the vicious 28 Rd7!! teeing up for 29 Rxd8! After the game, I looked briefly with Fressinet in search of a defence here. The best I could see was 28... g6 29 Rxd8 Rcxd8 30 Bxf6 Rd6 but 31 Qh4 ought to win. This is a position for machines, though, and when I consulted Fritz it suggested the splendid deflection 28... Re3!! 29 Qxe3 Nxd7. Now it wanted to win a pawn with 30 Qe8+ Nf8 31 Qxf7+ Kxf7 32 Nd5+. Instead 30 Bxg7 Kxg7 31 Nh5+ is very dangerous, but Kh6! may defend.

Going back to the diagram, if 27... Rxc3 28 Bxc3 Bxg2+ 29 Qxg2 Qxc3 is playable. I proposed instead 27... g6 28 Qg5 (not 28 Rb1? Qxb1+! 29 Nxb1 Rc1+ 30 Bg1 Bb6) 28... Rxc3 29 Bxc3 Bxg2+ 30 Qxg2 Qxc3 when g6 is very useful.

We dismissed 28... Nh5 in view of 29 Qh6 but then Bc7!! (Fritz) seems to work. One line trundles on 30 Ne4 Bxf4 31 Qxf4 Nxf4 32 Nf6+ (32 Bxb2 Bxe4 33 dxe4 is relatively best) Kh8 33 Bxb2 Bxg2+ 34 Kg1 Re2 35 Rxf4 Rxb2 36 Rf2 Rb7! with a big advantage.

White: L Fressinet

Black: J Plaskett

1 e4 c5

2 Nf3 e6

3 d4 cxd4

4 Nxd4 Nc6

5 Nc3 Qc7

6 Be3 a6

7 Bd3 b5

8 f4 Bb7

9 Nb3 Nf6

10 0-0 d6

11 Qf3 Be7

12 Qh3 Rc8

13 a3 b4

14 axb4 Nxb4

15 Nd4 0-0

16 Ra4 Nxd3

17 cxd3 Rfe8

18 Nde2 Qd7

19 Ra5 e5

20 Qg3 Bd8

21 Raa1 exf4

22 Nxf4 d5

23 exd5 Bxd5

24 Rxa6 Ba8

25 Kh1 Qb7

26 Ra7 Qxb2

27 Bd4 (see diagram) Qb4?

28 Rd7!! Kf8

29 Nh5! Nxd7

30 Bxg7+ Ke7

31 Re1+ Ne5

32 Qxe5+ 1-0